Fans of the analytical rubric find them incredibly helpful for evaluating how different criteria are fulfilled and for calculating grades, but they can prove to be unwieldy to create and time-consuming to apply.
Alfie Kohn concedes that rubrics might be helpful as one of a wide variety of sources a teacher could consult as they design instruction, but that rubrics should never drive instruction — nor should they be shared with students as a design element of their writing.
Both identify criteria for the essay, but then their paths diverge. Holistic rubrics tend to combine the necessary criteria into one single grade assessment of the overall piece, having closely measured that piece against the requirements for the writing assignment.
Critics complain that rubrics are rigid, unworkable and do a disservice to student writing. Ultimately, though, I may abandon rubrics altogether for a style that emphasizes deliberate, student-focused feedback as a part of the writing process and prioritizes critical thinking and creativity.
But a quick update of the rubric for a specific writing assignment could help students see whether the assignment calls for demonstrating understanding of new concepts, linking new concepts with material already covered, extending classwork into independent work, and so on.
Its most successful feature is the careful distinction in the evaluative range running across the table for each criterion. As teachers move from task to task, they may, in fact, want to assess how students demonstrate their understanding of concepts.
These graders give feedback specific to each essay; doing so reinforces to students that rules of writing are not standard, arbitrary or incomprehensible.
Students no longer wonder what their instructor wants, but instead consider how to fulfill specific criteria in their writing assignment.
Writing teachers can set expectations in two forms: analytical and holistic rubrics. A student receiving this rubric with his or her paper would be able to tell pretty quickly which criteria needed more attention or where the student can best spend time on a subsequent paper.